Abu Dhabi: Islam and secularism have much in common as both cherish human rights and justice, a regional conference on the Future of Moderate Arab-islamic Culture heard on Sunday.
“Islam and secularism really have much in common. Westerners say secularism is based on social justice and freedom and Islam says that he is not a believer, who eats his fill while his neighbour is hungry. The Shahada, the Muslim confession of faith: “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad [PBUH] is the Prophet of God.” When you say this confession, you formally become a Muslim, free from worldly influences,” said Dr Hassan Hanafi, professor of philosophy at the Cairo University.
Hanafi told the conference organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research — Arab and Muslim countries should develop new concepts to engage with other cultures and give up the idea of “either we or your are right.”
The word secular, Dr Hanafi said, has been derived from the Latin word saeculum that means concerning the century and concerning the time.” In the West, secularism means the separation of the church and state. In Islam, since there is no church, we do not have a religious authority with power over society. In Islam, we don’t have a theocracy and there is no distinction between the sacred and the profane and the priority is given to the civil and to the secular. The spirit of Islam is life, not religion. Religion is only a tool to implement a good life, to create a perfect man and a perfect society,” Dr Hanafi said.
Dr Mohammad Ghanem Al Rumaihi, professor of sociology at the Kuwait university, have readily accepted the democratic principle, suggested by Dr Hanafi. . “ The Islamic state is a civil and not religious state,” he said.
Citing John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration, Al Rumaihi, said: “We need religious reforms. Do not say give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance, we have already given MB in Sudan 30 years, what did they achieve? We lost half of Sudan and we would have probably lost the remaining part if had we waited longer,” he said.
Dr Tayyeb Tizini, a Syrian researcher and academic, also argued for a new understanding of the relationship between religion and government which supports toleration for various Muslim denominations.
“Moderate Islam calls for an open dialogue with other cultures and rejects violence,’ Tizini said.
Dr Qadri hifni, professor of political psychology at Ain Shams University, said that the future is for moderate Arab-Islamic culture. “A brighter future for Arabs and Muslims can only be achieved through giving Arab citizens’ rights and economic cooperation between Arab and Muslim countries.”
Dr Ammar Ali Hassan, an Egyptian researcher and academic, spoke about Salafism, while Dr Khalid Abdul Latif, an Assistant Professor at Al Madinah International University and a researcher at the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf examined the topic of Sufism.
Journalist and political analyst Abdul Wahab Badrakhan, presented a paper on “Intellectual and Religious Pluralism in the Arab Renaissance Movement.”
On Tuesday a panel chaired by former dean of the Sharia and Law Faculty at the Qatar University Dr Abdul Hamid Al Ansari, will deliberate on “Movements in Contemporary Islamic Political Thought: The Muslim Brotherhood.”
Egyptian author and lawyer Tharwat Al Kherbawy will speak about the “The Supreme Guide and the Challenges of Democratic Practice.”
A research paper on “The Global Spread of the Muslim Brotherhood: Allegiance and Loyalty” will then be presented by Dr Ahmad Youssef, Secretary General of the House of Wisdom Institute and a Hamas senior Leader.
“The Influence of the Geopolitical Environment in the Establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood” will be the theme of the following intervention by Dr Abdullah Othman, a former political advisor from Libya.
The President of the Liberal Democratic Front Party and Consultant at Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Dr Osama Al Ghazali Harb will speak about the “Political Self-Interest in the Behaviour of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The closing panel will tackle “Experiences of Political Islam in Power: Visions and Ideas.”
Ansari, Former Dean of the Sharia and Law Faculty at Qatar University will speak about the “Legislative Experience” of Islamist movements in power.
Dr Diaa Rashwan, Chairman of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate will shed light on the “Political Experience” of these movements.
The “Media Experience” will be key theme of the paper presented by General Sameh Seif Al Yazal, Chairman of Al Gomhouria Centre for Political and Security Studies in Egypt.
Finally, Palestinian economic expert Dr Mohammad AlSamhouri will elaborate on the “Economic Experience” of Islamist movements in power.